Writing For Money


Business Tactics - Robert W. Bly


How to set and get the fees you deserve

One of the toughest questions beginning and experienced writers wrestle with is: "How much should charge?"

So, how much should I charge?

The amount of money you charge and how you present this fee to your potential client plays a big role in determining whether you make the sale and get the project.


Charge too little, and you diminish your prestige and importance in the eyes of your client. You also diminish the perceived value of your services and dramatically reduce your own earnings.


On the other hand, charge too much and you may price yourself out of the market, losing out on jobs to other writers who charge less.


Here are four factors to consider when determining what to charge the client:

Determining your status

Are you a beginner or an old pro? Are you well known in your field and highly recommended ... or are you still waiting to be discovered by the masses? Are you a novice, learning your craft as you go, or are you truly a master at what you do?


And do you just think you're good ... or do you have the client list, testimonials, referrals, and track record to back up the big fees you want to charge?


Because of their status, experienced writers generally can command higher fees than beginners. But ability is even more important, so a highly talented novice is worth more to clients than a hack, no matter how long the hack has bee working.


Still, as a rule, those who are less experienced set their fee at the lower end of the scale; old pros, at the higher end.


But be careful about underpricing yourself. Beginners have a tendency to set their fees at the absolute bottom of the scale, reasoning that they do not have the experience or credentials to justify higher rates. I used this strategy myself when starting out because I felt most comfortable with it.


However, clients will probably take you more seriously it you put your fees in the range of medium to medium-high. I have found that the less a client pays for a job, the less he or she respects the work and the person who produced it.




The going rates for your type of writing

Unless you are the #1 authority in your writing specialty, or the most in-demand freelancer in town, your rates will have to be somewhat reflective of what the standard rates are for the types of assignments you handle. And even if you are the leading authority, there's still an upper limit to what most clients can afford or are willing to pay you.


In some areas of writing, such as magazine writing, pricing is fairly standard. Magazine editors typically set standard article fees based on what they pay their other writers.


On the other hand, many writing assignments have no such standards, and their fees, as one professional put it, are "all over the lot."


For example, in direct mail copywriting, fees for writing a mailing can range from $300 to $20,000 and sometimes higher!


The variation in fees in many writing specialties is tremen­dous. However, by talking with a few prospects, you quickly get a sense of the upper and lower limits you can charge.

The competition

Call some of your competitors and ask them what they are charging. Many will gladly tell you. If not, you still need to get this information, so it's acceptable to do so undercover. Call or have a friend call a few of your competitors. Describe a typical project, and get a cost estimate. See if they have a published fee schedule or price list, and ask them to send a copy.


Finding out the competition's fees is a real help in closing sales. You learn just where to price yourself in relation to other writers handling similar projects.


You'll also benefit by asking your competitors to send you their brochures and other sales materials. By reviewing these materials, you can learn much about their sales and marketing approach.

Your current need for work

How much do you need the work and the income? In some situations, when cash flow is slow, you may feel financial pressure to get the work. At other times, you may not need the money but, psychologically, you need to close the deal to feel successful and good about yourself.


Your need to get the work should not really be a consideration in setting your fees. But, practically speaking, it is for most of us.


Ideally, you should negotiate each project as if you don't really need or want the assignment. But when you're hungry, or just starting out, this isn't always possible or even wise.


Sometimes, you need the ego boost that comes with landing a project or being busy with work. For the writer, "psychic" wages can sometimes be as important as the green, folding kind.


Bob Bly is the author of 40 books including the just-published Secrets of a Freelance Writer: Revised Second Edition (Henry Holt & Co.). For a free catalog of Bob's books, tapes, and reports for writers, contact. Bob Bly, 22 E. Quackenbush Avenue, Dumont, NJ 07628, phone 201-385-1220, fax 201-385-1138, e-mail Rwbly@aol.com.